This Lit Show features recent Writers’ Workshop graduate Chinelo Okparanta, whose short story “America” is a centerpiece of Granta‘s new “Exit Strategies” issue. Granta‘s Deputy Editor Ellah Allfrey joins her in the studio by phone.
Okparanta discussed her childhood memories of Port Harcourt, Nigeria and her first impressions of the United States; the environmental crises faced by residents of the Niger Delta region; and the reasons why Nigeria continues to be the backdrop for her fiction—even after many years in the United States. After reading an excerpt from a new short story, “Fairness,” Okparanta and Ellah Allfrey addressed their writer-editor relationship, the role of folk tales within Okparanta’s short stories, and the subversive quietness of her prose.
Chinelo Okparanta was born in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. She received her BS from Pennsylvania State University, her MA from Rutgers University and her MFA from Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She currently teaches creative writing at the University of Iowa. Her short stories are forthcoming in GRANTA, Conjunctions, and Subtropics. Her collection of stories, Tumors and Butterflies, and her first novel, Under the Udara Trees, are also forthcoming. She has worked as a Sears sales associate, an English and French teacher at the middle and high school levels, an adjunct professor at the University of Iowa, a reader for NPR’s Three Minute Fiction Contest, and an editorial assistant for The Iowa Review. She is currently working on her second novel.
Ellah Allfrey is Deputy Editor of Granta. Before joining Granta, she was Senior Editor at Jonathan Cape, Random House where she continued to published history titles as well as introducing a list of young African writers including Brian Chikwava, Dinaw Mengestu and Peter Akinti. She sits on the board of the Writers’ Centre Norwich, and this year is on the judging panel of both the David Cohen Prize and the Caine Prize for African Writing. Her introduction to Woman of the Aeroplanes by Kojo Laing (Pearson, African Writers Series) is published this February. A Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, Allfrey was awarded an OBE in 2011 for services to the publishing industry.
On Thursday, February 9th at 7 PM, Okparanta will join Ben Marcus, author of The Flame Alphabet, for a reading at Prairie Lights.